Teens, texting and vacations. What’s a Dad to do?

teenage girl texting on cellphoneI’m usually pretty good at coming up with solutions to technological dilemmas with my children, but I have to admit I’m a bit stumped this time, and feel like the problem reflects more on me being too uptight and less on my daughter’s ability to be engaged, part of our group, and maintain her relationship with her boyfriend back home.

Let me set the scene: My kids get a two week spring break, so in the spirit of doing something fun and different, I rented a place on the beach in Southern California. Fun, and space for us to spread out, and we’ve even added some additional players: my sister, her daughter and her daughter’s young family (including a two year old). So far, so good. Everyone gets along, my kids adore their little second-cousin, etc.

But every evening so far my 15yo teen spends much of her attention on her phone, incessantly texting her boyfriend back home for hours on end. What they talk about I don’t know, but I surmise it’s mutually reinforced wry commentary on the banality of life (I envision: “whatcha doing?” “nothing. what you doing?” “nothing” “bored” “bored 2” “miss you” etc)

There is an element of rudeness to someone being in a social situation and texting their friend instead of participating, but that’s not really what’s happening because we are tending to playing with our own devices too, iPads, iPhone games, books, etc. So what she’s not doing is sitting in the corner texting while the rest of us are at the table playing a game or similar.

Still, it bugs me. But is it just me wanting everyone to be that mythic nuclear family where we do sit around and play games and talk because we’re all in the same space together — a highly unusual occurrence, I’ll add — and am I just so old school that I should just “get over it” and be glad she was willing to travel with us in the first place?

I should add that during the day when we’re doing things — read “at the beach” — she’s completely present and doesn’t even bring her cellphone with us to the shoreline, so it’s not like she’s completely unplugged and acting as if she’d rather be home hanging out with him than here at the beach with us.

So what’s your advice, my friends? What’s a smart and reasonable way to address this situation of too much evening texting? Or should I just chill the heck out and let her do what she wants when we’re on holiday?

5 comments on “Teens, texting and vacations. What’s a Dad to do?

  1. It sounds like you have a pretty balanced view of your daughter. I would keep that and keep the communication open.
    One thing that I would add is this: Since you are a single dad, begin to connect your daughter to some trustworthy ladies that mirror your values. Your sister is probably a good place to start, but I would shoot for three to five adult influences.
    You might discuss this with her and see who she could identify with.
    I enjoyed your article. It was passed on to me by my son, a soon-to-be dad.

  2. I think that it depends on what the group is doing. If everyone is “doing their own thing” – reading, listening to music, watching sports, etc., then she should have the freedom to do her own thing as well. I can’t imagine that she’d be any more involved with the rest of the group if she were in the middle of a gripping novel.

    On the other hand, if everyone is watching a movie, or playing cards, or sitting on the deck talking together and she is engrossed in her phone, then that would be just as rude as the 1970’s version – child in corner with nose in book – which never played too well in my family!

  3. To be honest, I’ve never really understood why everyone seems to feel like if a group is doing something while on vacation, every person should be involved. If someone was serially laying out of all group activities, I’d get it. The whole point of going on vacation was to be together, after all! Personally though, I’m just not a fan of the “group thing” (I’m very shy) and after a long day of being with other people nonstop, all I want to do is hole up in a small room with a book. Not a matter of intending disrespect, just that I need some downtime from the constant social pressure.

    That said, yes, I was that girl that brought a book to Thanksgiving with my extended family. I’ve learned better (well… I keep it in the car for the most part), but my younger self could only handle so much of my rather gregarious extended family. 😉

    • Oh, one more thing! I HATE when we are hanging out with family (especially my FIL) and they are watching sports. It is boring as all get out, and they spend ages discussing stuff related to whatever sports are on TV. Spurts of sports talk, then staring at the TV. Yuck! I’ll bring my book to those occasions unapologetically, and get involved in the conversation as needed.

  4. As the father of a three year old, I am anticipating having this very dilemma in an increasingly technological world. I think that the question that needs to be asked is this, do you mind because she is texting instead of talking, or is it the fact that she is not participating that gets under your skin? I am not sure where I will be in 12 years when my son is 15, but I can guarantee this, he will be equally versed in vocal conversation as in textual conversation. We are seeing a rise in teens who are incapable of carrying on a conversation because they conduct their communication mostly across text messages.

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